May 27, 2022

Exploring Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy

By B&SC Blog Team

Exploring Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy

Have you thought about pursuing a healthcare-related career? If so, it is important to note that the healthcare and medical fields are virtually exploding with opportunities. At Bryant & Stratton College, we offer a number of programs designed to help future healthcare professionals gain the skills and credentials needed to get into the field.

Have you considered a career in Occupational Therapy or Physical Therapy? Both fields are in high demand and offer a rewarding career path. But, if you’ve only begun exploring your options, you may wonder what the difference is between the two? Is there a difference? You have some questions; let’s explore the answers together:

What is the Difference between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy?

There are several similarities between these professions as well as some differences you should be aware of before you start pursuing an education or training in the area.

An Occupational Therapist (OT) helps a health care team to assess and treat conditions that impairs someone’s ability to perform daily tasks. These can range between basic self-care to advanced job-related tasks. Once they’ve determined the areas of difficulty for the patient, OTs will create a treatment plan. They’ll work with the patient through activities designed to help improve coordination, cognitive abilities, and visual skills as well as their abilities to function in general. The goal of this therapy is to help patient’s perform tasks with as high a degree of independence as possible.

A Physical Therapist (PT) specializes in movement of the human body. A PT works with clients of all ages who have been injured to an extent that limits movement and the ability to conduct daily functional tasks. Someone in this profession usually focuses on techniques to reduce pain, increase range of motion, improve movement, restore functionality, and prevent further disability. PTs work with their patients to keep them from losing mobility through the use of wellness and fitness programs and by promoting healthier lifestyles.

Probably the biggest difference between these two areas of healthcare is that occupational therapists assist with fine motor skills necessary to daily living tasks while physical therapists focus on gross motor skills of standing, walking, and reaching for objects.

What are the Similarities of Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy?

Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy are both designed to help patients with hands-on rehabilitation for issues that hamper their ability to move, whether this is relatively short-term or an ongoing issue that impairs daily living. These therapists monitor progress to determine what’s working and if any modifications in treatments should be made.

OT and PT both deal with flexibility, range of motion, and muscle tone and strength. Students who are going into either of these fields will have to study anatomy and physiology so that they can understand better how different parts and systems function and what weaknesses and strengths to look for in patients throughout treatment, beginning to end.

There is also overlap between the two professions in the kinds of health conditions for which they’re recommended. The type of care that’s provided is based entirely around the individual’s unique physical circumstances and needs.

Occupational and Physical Therapy also have patients perform many of the same or similar tasks in the course of a treatment program. Exercises and basic stretches are a part of the program to improve mobility and help patients conduct activities in their daily lives more independently.

What does a Physical Therapist do?

PTs help patients heal injuries and prevent further injury, surgery, or long-term reliance on medications. They evaluate issues involving movement, including severity. Then they put together a treatment plan in order to correctly help heal injured structures and tissues. In most cases, it’s performed in the therapist’s office, hospitals, work sites, and fitness or sports facilities.

benefits of Physical Therapy include regaining mobility after surgery, surgery prevention and even eliminating the reliance on medication. There are various goals to this type of therapy, including decreasing pain levels, preventing deteriorating conditions, educating for maintenance of fitness and functionality, and restoring or improving strength, range of motion, and movement.

Physical Therapy is recommended when an individual has a condition that impairs their range of motion or movement. Most Physical Therapists will work on those with health conditions such as:

  • Pain management
  • Recovery from a surgical procedure
  • Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke recovery, or multiple sclerosis
  • Improve mobility after an injury
  • Joint conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Cancer
  • Amputations
  • Respitory conditions
  • Heart failure, treatment from other heart conditions, and recovery from a heart attack

Techniques employed during a therapy session include stretching, hot and cold applications, massage and other types of hands-on manipulation, targeted exercises, and electrical stimulation, among other things.

What does an Occupational Therapist do?

An Occupational Therapy (OT) uses different techniques with the goal of promoting independence and productivity, assisting patients in knowing how to effectively and safely perform daily tasks, and educating caregivers on how they can help an individual who is getting OT services.

Whether OTs are helping overcome developmental or cognitive disabilities, pushing through a physical impairment, or recovering from an injury or illness, they work to optimize independence for daily activities and promote self-sustainability. OTs can pursue their career in healthcare practices and hospitals, but they are quite often practicing in patient homes and workplaces. In this way, they can offer guidance on how to modify these environments to help the patient realize a better quality of life. Typical tasks OTs perform include:

  • Helping clients learn or relearn how to perform daily tasks-bathing, eating, dressing, etc.
  • Assessing homes, schools, or workplaces to determine how to make performing daily tasks easier
  • Helping clients with tasks that require fine motor skills like tying shoelaces and writing
  • Training patients to get in and out of their bed, chairs, and the bathtub with safety in mind
  • Providing instruction on use of assistive devices like walkers and wheelchairs
  • Explaining to caregivers and loved ones how to provide support on a daily basis
  • Educating patients on stress management techniques

OTs work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, schools, nursing homes, home health agencies, inpatient facilities, and mental health facilities among other settings.

Start Your OT to PTA Journey Today

If you’re looking for a career in Occupational Therapy or Physical Therapy, you’d do well to talk to a counselor at Bryant & Stratton. Our Occupational Therapy Assistant Program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and the Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Bryant & Stratton College-Parma Campus is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). We’ve been around for over 170 years and our career-focused education helps students succeed in their chosen professions. Contact us today to receive more information about how you can get started.

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